How does the Instagram story algorithm work
The Instagram algorithm: 7 tips to make your posts “visible”
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It is as hated as it is necessary: the Instagram algorithm. As is well known, the time of chronological order is long gone on Instagram - images and videos are only displayed in the feed according to their relevance. Many still cannot really get used to this type of ranking. The algorithm just wants to support you - you will see!
But why did Instagram decide to take this step? The algorithm was introduced because we users are following more and more accounts and it's so easy to lose track of things. 70% of the content in the feed of an average Instagram user was not seen due to the chronological order. There was and is just too much content every minute that nobody can keep up with - at some point each of us has to sleep.
Thanks to the algorithm, Instagram was able to increase the visibility of content by 40%.
The number of "visible" posts has increased significantly due to the algorithm. So one thing is clear: it works - you “just” have to deliver good and sought-after content. Because today everything revolves around one thing: commitment.
Commitment is the be-all and end-all!
If a photo or video gets a lot of likes or comments, the algorithm is signaled that the content is interesting for many users. It will then be placed accordingly high up in your feed. But not only the number of interactions, but also how quickly a post generates engagement, is decisive for the algorithm.
Many demonize the algorithm because they blame it for the insufficient reach of their own contributions. Very few look for the problem with themselves and their possibly mediocre content. Because of course nobody wants to admit that their own posts are not "awesome". It's so simple: good content = high engagement = high ranking. That means: Your content MUST be good!
If you generate a lot of likes on a post very quickly, the post will also rank very high.
In order to know how to conjure up good Instagram content, we have to take a closer look at the factors of the algorithm.
How does the Instagram algorithm work?
There has been a lot of speculation about ranking factors on Instagram in recent years. In 2018, Instagram itself commented on how the algorithm worked for the first time: Product Lead Julian Gutman explained the three most important ranking factors at a press conference in the USA:
Through your past interactions with posts on certain topics, Instagram rates how interesting a post could be for you. So if you've liked a lot of unicorns images, you will likely see more unicorns in your feed as well. So we remember: the more you interact with content on a relevant topic, the more relevant it will be shown to you on this topic.
Instagram also remembers whether you prefer to interact with videos or pictures and prioritizes them in your feed - a myth, however, is that, like Facebook, it prioritizes videos over pictures from the outset.
Important: Instagram also measures the time you spend on a post, for example to read the caption.
A long dwell time is another sign of relevance.
That's why videos or boomerangs perform so well - they just take longer to watch. In order to guarantee a high ranking, you have to increase the useful life of your posts.
Even if posts are no longer displayed in chronological order, it is important when the post was published. You will see newer pictures or videos higher up in your feed.
But that also depends on how often you use Instagram. If you only open the app for a few minutes a few times a week, posts from a few days ago are usually displayed; if you use the app several times a day, they are only a few minutes old.
Advantage: The algorithm sees posts over a longer period of time.
That's why you still get likes on photos that you posted two days ago. Pretty cool, isn't it?
3. Relationships / interactions
The more you interact with posts from a single account, the higher future posts that person or company will rank in your feed. So even if you follow a celebrity with 30 million followers, your mom with 30 followers will likely show up higher up if you've (hopefully) liked every picture of her in the past. The frequency of interactions with a particular account is also taken into account. Instagram will show you more content from this person in your feed - good algorithm!
So now you know the three main factors in ranking Instagram posts and, by the way, Instagram stories too. How strongly the algorithm works depends of course on the number of channels you are following. If you only follow five accounts, the algorithm hardly has to select at all. At 500 it looks completely different again.
7 tips to get your posts ranked higher
The algorithm isn't as bad as everyone says - it's your friend. You just have to know how to handle it. More precisely: How do you manage to increase engagement on your posts based on the three ranking factors?
1. Longer and narrative captions
We now know that, according to the algorithm, the time spent on a post is a good sign for interest and is rewarded accordingly by high ranking. In order for your followers to see a post for as long as possible, your caption has to catch them. Keyword storytelling: Tell a story that is related to your photo and interests your target group. The best case scenario is for all of your followers to open your text completely to read it.
2. A compelling call-to-action
Liking and commenting is known to generate engagement - that's why you have to get your followers to oneinteraction move. With a simple “Like this post - then eternal happiness beckons you!” It is usually not enough. Opinion questions, surveys, puzzles or competitions work best. You can find good practical examples on many larger business accounts such as Media Markt or Rossmann. By the way: Likes and comments do not perform the same. Comments rank higher than likes because they take more effort. Accordingly, you should put your call-to-action focus on comments.
3. Post pictures that you don't see every day
Sounds easy, but it is not. Not only qualitative pictures ensure engagement, but also extraordinary pictures that do not appear in your followers' feed every day. They should immediately serve as an eye-catcher, encourage people to look at them for as long as possible and so oninterest suggest. The hard consequence: Post fewer pictures from lunch and more curious scenes from the morning meeting!
4. Use videos and slideshows
In order to further increase the length of time spent on your posts, it is sometimes worthwhile to rely on videos or slideshows made up of several images. Coupled with a compelling caption and a good CTA, people will stick with your post. Instagram stories in particular can be used for moving images. But be careful: you shouldn't post long videos with the information content of a fortune cookie several times a day - the keywords here are short, crisp and thematically appropriate.
5. Set the right hashtags
In order to draw attention to you and thus generate a lot of commitment, the right setting of hashtags is also important. Basically: Find out the most popular hashtags of your target group! This is how you make new people aware of you with your contribution to interact. There are some evaluations online for the most popular hashtags such as vononlinemarketing.de, but you should rather rely on hashtags from similar accounts or competitors. Or you can use the Instagram search and see not only the popularity of the respective hashtag, but also related terms.
6. Post at the best time
Of course, your posts generate the highest and, above all, fastest engagement when your audience is online. The Topicality As you know, Instagram is still important. The best times to post, adapted to your target group, can easily be found directly in Instagram under “Insights”. There you can see when your followers are most often online. But this is only possible as long as you have a business account - private accounts have no access to Insights.
7. Place ads
Unfortunately, it is no longer possible on Instagram alone with organic reach. The secret is a good mix of paid and organic content - by the way, also the cover story of the new SocialHub Mag, which you can download here.
Why you should run ads now and then: The more accounts there are on Instagram, the more content there is. Because of this, more and more posts are competing for a place in the feed and the likelihood that your post will be seen decreases. Sometimes you just have to pay for it to make it visible. Especially if you want to generate new followers, you can't avoid this step.
By the way, you can create advertisements for Facebook and Instagram in the SocialHub - as easy as usual, directly in the Content Planner and together with your other posts. If you want to test our content planner with the ads feature, please contact us here.
Now it's your turn!
Every second around the world, 854 articles per minute are published. The average Instagram user up to the age of 29 in Germany spends 17 minutes a day on Instagram. Even if each of us only follows a certain number of accounts (for me there are almost 400), the chance that you will see every post is very low. The Instagram algorithm has definitely increased the probability - with chronological order we simply wouldn't have a chance to see as many posts as possible that were of interest to us. So give him a chance - he just wants to help!
Just like us. Your posts will rank better with our tips - give it a try! But don't forget: it's not just about posting videos, patching posts with 78 hashtags and writing a little novel every time. Do what suits you and find the right mix! Because the content has to suit you and your brand - one way and no other.
Text, images and screenshots: Anna Maucher
Cover picture: Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash
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